Sunday, January 02, 2011

Information verses Revelation

We live in the information age. I remember as a kid that encyclopedia salesmen would come every so often to your door and attempt to sell a set of encyclopedias. They would claim that no child who wanted to do well in high school and eventually go to college should be without one. Can you imagine anyone buying one today with the internet available?
Information becomes available ever single moment, and an event on the other side of the world is known here immediately after it happens. You can know your credit score, your family tree, your bank balance, your loan balance, and almost anything else simply by sitting in front of your PC. And you can speak to someone, complete with a live picture feed, on almost any computer. We live in an incredible age of information.
The same is true in religion. There are tens of thousands of internet sites that offer all sorts of Bible translations, systematic theologies, concordances, Bible dictionaries, and a full line of commentaries. Go to most church sites and you can listen to their Sunday service live and order a CD of most past sermons. Many pastors have a full line of books that can be purchased either as a book or a CD.
When you attend a local church you are given a Sunday morning bulletin that usually provides you with the upcoming weekly activities, offering information, new members, and an assortment of other pieces of information. Many churches now have e-mail services that provide you with electronic reminders and advertisement of the pastor’s new sermon series. Many now employment power point in the sermons and some provide detailed outlines with fill in the blanks. Many pastors purchase their messages online.
The Sunday School material has become much more intricate during the years, and the children’s materials are quite extensive. To say that these materials are filled with photographs and pictures would be an understatement. The new member’s packets are comprehensive, and the church rolls are now computerized. Many churches send out birthday greetings automatically, and many have a phone tree. The information age has befriended the local church.

There is nothing inherently wrong with most of what I shared, however there is something very wrong and even sinister about its effects. The organized western church has shepherded its flock with the implements of technology and with a shower of information designed to both inform and control. Many churches employ “touch techniques” that are secular principles that are designed to keep everyone connected, interested, and giving, perhaps the most prominent motive. And in an incredible and shocking truth, many churches hire secular fund raising organizations to help them with building programs. And many organizations have sprung up that call themselves Christian fundraisers, or more palatable, financial evangelists.
But while all this was taking place within the church and revolutionizing the way the local church operates, something else was happening. The church was moving toward information dependence and away from depending upon revelation. Now when I speak of revelation I do not mean adding to God’s Word or finding and sharing some new and sensationalistic truth. A person can read the Scriptures and accumulate all kinds of good and useful information, but if that information is not accompanied with revelation it becomes dead and dry head knowledge.
The difference between knowledge and revelation is distinct. Revelation includes enlightenment, which is manifested by a change in thinking which in turn is manifested by a change in behavior. Revelation is much more than knowing. The devil knows the Word very well, but he is not filled with revelation. He even knows who Jesus is, but he has no spiritual enlightenment. He has even been to heaven and dwells now in the place of torture before the lake of fire is opened, so he knows full well what eternity holds for the human race. But he has no divine revelation or enlightenment that can only come from and through God’s Spirit.
And in that pattern we find the western church, filled with information and knowledge and mostly void of revelation. Take, for instance, this Scriptural passage:

Phil.3:10 - That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

The word translated “know” is understood as knowledge in the English language, but in the Greek it carries much more weight. It is the same word used in this passage:

Matt.1:25 - And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

You see, the word know is an intimate knowledge and one that carries with it some outward and inward manifestation. In Matthew the knowledge indicates the love act of marriage, while in Philippians the word indicates a death to self through His death. But just having some information is not enough, revelation is needed. One must understand that Joseph was not the father of Jesus, and one must understand that knowing Jesus runs much deeper than reading His autobiography. In fact, many computers contain the entire Old and New Testaments on their hard drives. Does that make a computer a disciple of Jesus Christ because it knows and can recite the entire Bible?
Of course some information is absolutely necessary in order to be faithful to the truth, but just knowing the truth, as information, is incomplete and many times deceptive.

You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

The word “know” is again the same used in the previous passages. One can gain information which is the truth without being enlightened by that same truth. One cannot have revelation without information, but one can have information without revelation. And that describes most of the western church today. And without revelation our faith is nothing more than religious information that finds its expression in statements of faith, tracts, books, sermons, and a host of other information venues. But sadly it does not find its expression in the hearts and lives of those who profess to believe that information.

I will delve deeper into this in the next post.


Anonymous said...

Oh, there are so many out there who can quote scripture so well - and they misunderstand it so completely!

Or they use it to deceive.

I pray we may "know" Him - not just know of Him.

God bless, Lisa

Radiance said...

Your post made me think of this following comment made by Rodney Trotter of Reformation21.

"Other than the complete lack of a sneering judge with an English accent, it seems that the first series of `Imam Idol' has been a great success, at least if the BBC report is anything to go by.

So Islam has reasserted its place in the cultural avant garde for the first time since the Middle Ages. Get with the program, guys. Time to catch the cultural wave,. American Christianity has rested smugly on the laurels of its megaconferences, soul patches, bo-lo (sp?) ties, megaspeakers, those trendy ear-piece mike thingies, mullet haircuts, dark suits, torn jeans, Scotch drinking, and militant total abstaining (delete where denominationally appropriate) for far too long. Time for Preacher Idol, Bible Conversation Facilitator Idol, Youth Pastor Idol. If you're not on the train when it leaves the station, you're doomed to be left in the irrelevance of suburban Palookaville."